1998 seems to be the year of sleaze. Not only is the leader of the free world choking his chicken on his interns’ dresses, but movies are getting sicker and sicker. And we laugh! Roger Ebert calls it New Geek Cinema, and refers to David Lynch and Quentin Tarantino as forefathers. I’d also mention the Coen bros and Danny Boyle. All these filmmakers take great pleasure in putting stuff in their movies that would have been rated X just a few years ago. It seems they’re getting away with it because they play it for laughs: it’s a bit less disturbing. As far as 1998 goes, the smartest, most affecting New Geek flick was Todd Solondz’ “Happiness”, the funniest gross-out comedy was the Farrelly brothers’ “There’s Something About Mary”, and as far as excessive gore goes, Peter Berg’s “Very Bad Things” wins the cake hands down!
Think “Shallow Grave” built as a wedding comedy and you’ll get a little idea of what this very odd picture is like. I wouldn’t dare spoil your fun by giving away too much, so I’ll just mention what you probably already know. You’ve got these 5 horny dudes who go on a bachelor party escapade in Vegas, get piss drunk, snort coke, and hire a hooker… That’s when a, urh, accident happens and the prostitute ends up on the bathroom floor in a pool of her own blood. The gang decides not to make a big fuss of it, to just clean up, cut her into pieces and bury her in the desert. Yet it won’t be that easy… So that’s about the first 20 minutes of the film, and trust me, you ain’t seen nothing yet. The film then escalates into new heights of bad taste and depravity. The flick is fairly well written despite a few loose ends in the script, and Berg’s direction is stylish. But for my money, the real treat is the cast. Jon Favreau stars as the manic groom-to-be who isn’t man enough to do anything that could displease his future wife, played by the always gorgeous and perky Cameron Diaz. She plays a marriage obsessed, Martha Stewart-type chick who’ll have her wedding right like she wants it, whatever the cost might be. Diaz is very funny in the role, as her character gets more and more nervous and we get to see the babelicious actress go nuts. Other cast members include Daniel Stern as a freaked out suburb dad, Jeremy Piven as his frustrated, underachieving brother and Leland Orser as the guy who doesn’t talk much.
But without any doubt, the surprise of the film is Christian Slater. I mean, the guy was awesome in early 90s flicks like “True Romance” and “Pump Up the Volume”, but recently, he has done nothing but mainstream crap. Hence, it’s nice to see him in a quirky indie, and he doesn’t disappoint us. He steals the film with his painfully cool, playful and wild-eyed performance as a guy whose philosophy is “If you’ve got a problem, well, kill it!”. Overall, “Very Bad Things” is not always believable, and it’s sometimes more disturbing than funny, but it’s still a raucously fun black comedy. I liked that every time I thought the film was its lowest, there was always something even sicker coming, until the very last scene.